The UTM English and Drama Student Society’s most recent production, Festival of One Acts, showcased four plays all written, directed, and performed by UTM students.
Directed by theatre studies major Muhaddisah Batool, the first play was titled “Beginning the Middle with the End.” The absurdist comedy depicted four people struggling with writer’s block when collaborating on their first novel. The actors distress over how to begin the narrative by generating dramatic statements and citing clichéd openings, such as “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” All the overthinking of a possible beginning humorously culminates with an anti-climactic “Once upon a time,” with each word held by one the four actors. I thought a strength in artistic direction with this play was how well the actors utilized the space onstage. The performance seemed full and professional in how the set was laid out and how the actors paced around. Crumpled pieces of paper and empty cans were scattered, making the set of frustrated writers look realistic.
The next play, “Addict’s Dream,” featured a parent-artist named Jason (Max Ackerman) with his friends and family, who worry about his well-being and the safety of his infant daughter Isabella. The script begins in a dream sequence where Jason dances with his ex-lover and mother of his child. He jolts awake angry that it was only a dream. His friends and brother Marcus (Myles Botten) suddenly barge into his house, debating whether or not to stage an intervention with the spiraling Jason. They walk around his house, observe his new artwork, and are horrified at a surfaced drawing of his daughter. Marcus later returns to argue with Jason about his mental state. Jason reveals that Isabella’s mother committed suicide when he was out of the house and the drawing portrays what would have happened to his daughter had he not come back in time. With his grief no longer internalized, Jason agrees to quit his toxic addiction to his art, daughter, and ex-lover, and leaves for therapy with his brother. Apart from the noteworthy storyline and acting, I thought the lighting in this play truly enhanced the performance. The muted blue tones of the lighting at the start felt dreamlike. When Jason’s inner turmoil is portrayed, the stage filled with an urgent red hue.
“The Interview” depicts a mother, Edith Thompson (Nada Madi), who is interrogated by a detective (Michael Karrangus) shortly after her son’s death. While Edith is certain that it was a homicide, the detective maintains that they currently rule her son’s death as suicide. When discussing if her son was depressed, she claims that she gave him everything he could have wanted, and the conversation steers to Edith and the detective’s past relationship. Edith storms out of the room, vowing to catch her son’s killer. In an ironic twist of fate, she is shot by the same killer just as the detective calls her with new evidence confirming a homicide. In my opinion, the delivery of this emotionally-charged script felt genuine.
Lastly, “Fletcher and Anderson Forget the Launch Codes” is about two government officers tasked with detonating nuclear missiles, but forget the eight-digit launch code. They discuss the possible aftermath when contemplating whether or not to launch the 400,000 missiles. Fletcher (Ben Caldwell) concludes that since they were ordered to do so, he’ll be the one to “end this planet.” However, they still don’t remember the code. After two failed guesses and a dig at Donald Trump, Anderson (Marissa Orjalo) tries the President’s birthday as a desperate last attempt. It miraculously works, and the missiles are launched. The two survive the attack, only for Fletcher to run out of the bunker and die shortly after. Anderson begs for her own death, and when nothing she says seems to work, she confesses that she didn’t vote for the sitting president. Anderson immediately drops to the ground and dies as the American anthem plays and lights dim.
The Festival of One Acts truly displayed the creativity in both writing and performing students on this campus. The EDSS is currently looking for submissions of literary projects for its Research Symposium which are due by February 26.